Territory Stories

Desert fire : fire and regional land management in the arid landscapes of Australia



Desert fire : fire and regional land management in the arid landscapes of Australia

Other title

edited by GP Edwards and GE Allan


Edwards, Glenn P; Allan, G. E.


E-Publications; E-Books; PublicationNT; DKCRC Report 37




Date:2009; Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT).

Table of contents

Executive summary -- 1. Introduction and overview of Desert Fire -- 2. Managing fire in the southern Tanami Desert -- 3. Aboriginal burning issues in the southern Tanami: towards understanding tradition-based fire knowledge in a contemporary context -- 4. Pastoralists’ perspectives on the costs of widespread fires in the pastoral lands of the southern Northern Territory region of central Australia, 2000–02 -- 5. A review of fire management on central Australian conservation reserves: towards best practice -- 6. The fire history of Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve 1984–2005.




Fire Management -- Australia, Central

Publisher name

Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre

Place of publication

Alice Springs


DKCRC Report 37


iii, 338 p. : col. ill. ; 30 cm.

File type



1741581125; 1741581109





Copyright owner

Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre



Parent handle


Citation address


Page content

Desert Knowledge CRC Desert Fire: f i re and regional land management in the ar id landscapes of Austral ia Ch : Aboriginal burning issues in the southern Tanami: tradition-based fire knowledge pp. 98 ecological environments and the land tenure systems can mean that findings based on local case studies with one group may not be applicable to another. Greater attention needs to be paid to differences between groups from environmental and socio-cultural perspectives. 3.7.4 Livelihoods and what people would like to see happen with fire Constraints on the fieldwork meant that it was not possible in this study to examine how fire management can be linked with livelihood activities except in very general terms. However, Aboriginal people expressed interest in the following fire-related activities: burning for land management using traditional strategies, work-based training in fire prevention and burning strategies from a nonAboriginal perspective, sharing of tradition-based and scientific fire knowledge with non-Aboriginal researchers, and the transfer of Aboriginal fire techniques to younger generations. Of particular interest are livelihood projects that enable people to visit their traditional country in order to undertake burning, hunting and gathering and to teach and record Aboriginal ecological knowledge for the benefit of younger generations. Further consultations and research are required to explore the viability of future economic fire-related opportunities. It is clear that given the lack of employment opportunities and range of problems faced by Aboriginal communities today, the introduction of livelihood projects focused around fire concerns and issues could provide an important focus and support for Aboriginal communities. Increased opportunity for people to burn both more regularly and in more remote areas will benefit fire management in the southern Tanami region. It is also likely to lead to other beneficial outcomes. For example, it will provide opportunity for older Warlpiri to transfer aspects of their ecological and religious knowledge to younger generations, increasing their practical knowledge of country. It will also provide opportunities for people to hunt, gather and obtain bush food, with the potential for better health outcomes. Apart from suggested livelihood activities, the researchers were asked to identify types and scale of support required to increase burning. The main form of support requested was use of properly equipped vehicles and an increased network of tracks so that people could undertake burning activities in remote and inaccessible areas. Four-wheel-drive vehicles equipped with tools, adequate water provision and the means to communicate with other vehicles, police and communities are essential if the range and frequency of peoples burning activities are to increase. There is substantial Aboriginal interest in having tracks graded to increase vehicle access to remote and relatively inaccessible areas. At the same time, in addition to general concern over damage to places of cultural and natural significance (for example, biodiversity hotspots), some senior people at Willowra have raised concerns that an increase in linking roads between settlements/towns would diminish their ability to maintain surveillance over use of the roads and peoples behaviour in their country. Further consultation is required with senior traditional owners of different areas in the Tanami regarding potential impacts of more tracks and roads, the routes of the roads and how provision of more roads would be part of a fire management strategy that incorporates Warlpiri protocols concerning cultural resource management. This could be undertaken by the CLC, which is frequently involved in consultations with traditional owners over mining exploration in large sections of the Tanami Desert. It may be feasible for the CLC to negotiate on behalf of traditional owners for mining companies to leave access tracks in particular areas. Aboriginal people spoken to during the course of this research were interested in collaborating with outside agencies to manage fire in the Tanami region. In addition to collaborative fire management, a number of people were interested in sharing knowledge with scientists and non-Aboriginal people concerning Warlpiri customary burning and ideas about best practice burning from a non-Aboriginal perspective. At present, information concerning western scientific burning issues and practices is generally not accessible to Aboriginal people in the Tanami area unless they are provided with opportunities to learn in meetings, workshops or Ranger type programs.

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